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11-11-2012, 01:59 PM
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If prominent Russian players decide to stay in the KHL, there will be little the NHL can do to bring them back.

There is no binding transfer agreement. The sides have a handshake agreement to not poach each others' players under contract. If the KHL thinks they have the upper hand, the agreement will not last.

If Russian players refuse to return, their NHL teams could cancel their contracts. Or force the players to honor them (and make up for the lost years) should they ever return to the NHL. In all likelihood, neither one of these threats is likely to benefit the NHL teams.

What would the IIHF's position be? I doubt they'd want to pick a fight with Russia, given that the Olympics are just around the corner. It also probably benefits the IIHF to weaken the NHL's influence over international hockey.

Ovechkin and Kovalchuk would have obvious reasons to stay in the KHL - neither has exactly had a good run in the NHL the last couple of seasons, and both have been subject to a lot of criticism. Malkin less so, though given that he's already won everything that the NHL can offer, might want to continue his career in his home country. His contract also expires in 2014. He could use the threat to try to get the Penguins to commit to a Crosby type deal next summer.

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